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in God's Mercy, such á Hope, as will not make us ashamed, as will not deceive us. Though ive know nothing by our selves, as St. Paul speaks, yet are we not bereby justified, be that judgetb us is the Lord, 1 Cor. 4. 4. In this case it is true also, that God is greater than our Hearts, and knoweth all things, and therefore he may observe those Defects and Imperfections in us, which we do not observe in our selves, that the ṁoft innocent and vertuous Man dares not challenge Heaven as his Merit and Desert, but yet expects and hopes for a Reward from the Mercies of God, has Confidence towards God.
A Man's own Conscience cannot deceive him in this. Every Man must know, whether he carefully avoid all known and wilful Sins, whether he discharge all the essential parts of his Duty to God and Men, especially when he does any eminent Services for God, and becomes an Example of Piety and Vertue. A Man, whose Conscience gives this Testimòny to him, may securely hope and rejoice in God, for whatever other Defects the pure Eyes of God may see in him, they are all within the Grace and Mercy of the Gospel, and therefore cannot hinder his Pardon or his Reward.
Thus we see, that when Conscience absolutely condemns, or when without any doubt or hesitanfy it commends, acquits, and abfolves, its Sentence is a Divine Oracle, and assures us what our Judgment shall be at the last Day, if we be then found in such a tate : But there is a middle state between thefe two, Dd
which deserves to be considered : When Men are neither so wicked, as to be absolutely condemn’d by their own Consciences, nor so good, as to be acquitted and absolved, which is an uncertain state between Hope and Fear. This is the case of those Men, who have been guilty of very great Sins, which they had lived in many years; and though they are very sensible of their paft Wickedness, and heartily sorry for their Sins, and seriously resolved by the Grace of God to forsake them ; yet they are not satisfied of the sincerity of their Repentance, because they have not with all their Sorrow and Resolutions conquered their Inclinations to sin, nor broken the Habits of it; but are guilty of frequent Relapses, and fall into the Commission of the same Sins again ; and then repent and resolve again; and as time wears off their Sorrow for their last Offence, their old Inclinations revive, and a new Temptation conquers again : Now such Men's Consciences neither absolutely condemn, nor absolutely acquit them, for the Event is doubtful: They are not Conquerors yet, and it is uncertain, whether ever they will conquer; and therefore there Consciences cannot yet speak Peace to them; and yet they are not perfe& Slaves and Captives to Sin, but contend for their Liberty, and therefore their Consciences do not absolutely condemn them ; but as they prevail or yield, so their Hopes or Fears encrease.
And this also is the Case of those Men, who, if they commit no notorious Wickedness, yet
do very little Good, nothing that their Consciences can commend them for : Who worShip God rather in compliance with the Custom of the Place they live in, than from a vital Sense and Reverence of God, and therefore are not for any Works of Supererogation : A little will content them, and they are glad of any Excuse to lessen that little ; and all Men, who pretend to greater Devotion, they suspect of Hypocrisy, and some secular Interests.
As for Charity, though they must own Charity to be a Vertue, yet when any particular Act of Charity is pressed on them, they never want Arguments to prove, either that it is not Charity, or that they are not concerned in it; whatever Kindnesses they do for others, are extorted by great Importunity, and done very thriftily, just as Men do, what they have no Mind nor Inclination to. Now these Men are commonly pretty quiet and secure, unless something extraordinary awaken them; for they do nothing greatly to terrifie their Consciences, nor any thing to please them; and therefore their Consciences neither abfolve nor condemn. Such Men don't well know what to think of themselves, nor do they much think of these matters : If they be gay, and in good Humour, all is very well ; Accident disturbs them, and makes them thoughtful, and fall out with this World, or works upon a melancholly Constitution, then they are over-run with black and dismal Thoughts, and all the Ministers in the Neigh
if any cross
bourhood are sent for to answer Cases of Con. fcience, and to speak such Comfort to them, as their own Consciences cannot, and will not speak.
Now this Case our Apostle took no notice of, for indeed nothing is to be said to it : Such Men cannot know by the Judgment of their own Consciences, what Judgment God will pass on them, because their Consciences pass no certain Judgment on them; but when Conscience does give Judgment of us, when it absolutely acquits, or absolutely condemns us, we may depend on it, that God will judge us, as our Consciences do.
There are some Objections against this, which are easily answered from that plain ftate of the Case, which I have now given. As to name some.
There are a great many very Bad Men, who go on in their Sins without any Checks and Rebukes of their own Consciences, much more without being condemned by them; and will not God condemn these Men, because their own Conscienees do not condemn them? Yes, no doubt, he will; for he will condemn all Bad Men, whether their own Consciences at present condemn them or not. But by not condemning, the Apostle means, acquitting and abfolving; which these Men's Consciences do not : Though they do not condemn, they do not commend, nor absolve neither; that is, they pass no Judgment at all, but are feared, and Itupified by Atheism, or a long Custom in finning. When Conscience does judge, and
does not condemn, God will not condemn neither; but there is a great difference between not judging and not condemning, and therefore notwithstanding what the Apostle says, God may condemn, when Conscience does not judge, tho' he will not condemn, when a judging Conscience does not condemn. And the difference between thele two; between not judging, and not condemning, is very evident ; for it is often seen, that Men whose Consciences have given them no disturbance for many Years, in a course of Sin; that is, have never judged them ; yet whenever their Consciences are awakened, (as they sometimes are, by fevere Providences, or at least, by the approach of Death) then they condemn them, and fill them with Terror and Amaze
There are other Bad Men, who do very wicked Things, and yet their Consciences are so far from condemning them, that they commend and applaud them. Nay, we know there have been those, whose Consciences have indulg'd them in all manner cf Wickedness, and flatter'd them into an Opinion of their being great Saints, and dear to God all the while : And will not God condemn these Men, because their Consciences do not condemn them; but promise them, not only Impunity, but great Rewards ?
Thus, on the other hand, many very good Men, who, to all appearance, have liv'd very innocent and vertuous Lives, fall under great Disorders of Mind, and not only condemn,